2012-07-10

Hausstock (3158m) attempt, returned from 2950m

This time I hurt myself. I set out to climb the Hausstock (3158m) and hike the famous Via Suvorov, named after some bad ass Russian General who kicked Napoleon's ass and fought his way over the pass. The weather forecast was bad with lots of rain and wind. We already had an extremely wet summer this far, leading to people skiing in July and lots of trails being washed out and dangerously soaked. I started late on Saturday, arriving at the trail head in the village of Elm at 5 in the afternoon. Posted hiking time to the Panixerpass and the refuge I want to spend the night in is 5 hours. I figure I can make it in 4 and thus get there before dark. It's cloudy but dry.

I pass a fenced in pasture with goats. However, the fence is a single wire, above the heads of the goats and probably meant for cows. So the whole herd of goats heads straight for me, surrounds me and follows, or rather leads, the way. This is funny at first but gets quite annoying after a while. I can chase them off temporarily by clapping or shouting, but they'll come right back and bump into me and each other. Amusing on a meadow, dangerous on the trail. We cross a pasture with cows where my commando goats have a stand off with a cow and chase her out of the way. It goes on like this for close to an hour. Only when a group of three hikers passes us going the other way does my flock leave me, seemingly confused about what to do next.

Commando Goats

Just as planned I arrive at the hut at dusk. It's tiny. I startle two other hikers who were already asleep at 10. I'll never get to talk to them since I'll be gone at 5 in the morning, before they wake up ;-) It's a restless night for me since the couple has heated the hut to sauna like temperatures using the small wood fired stove. He's a snorer and she needs to go to the outhouse every hour or so.

I turn off my cell phone for the night to conserve battery power. Turning it on in the morning it won't boot up again. No matter how often I try and reset, the boot process freezes at the loading screen. Great. No contact.

Shelter for the night

Heading for the Hausstock summit via the east ridge, circling the glacier da Mer, dark clouds loom over the valley and strong winds drive them my way quickly.

Bad weather incoming
The objective: east ridge right in the image

It's an alpine route, requiring some scrambling and climbing. My fingers frozen stiff, the stone wet and brittle I climb a short vertical section when it happens: a plate size rock I'm using as a handhold breaks off. I realize I'm falling - exposed high above the glacier. My lizard brain takes over. Without any conscious thought or even fully realizing what's happening I turn around 180 degrees in the air, getting my feet under me. I'm running, partly treading helplessly through the void, partly running down the near vertical cliff. I crash into a huge boulder, stopping my momentum.

I was climbing right of that red spike thing when it happened

System self check. I'm OK. Looking back up I fell for almost 5 meters. My hands are bleeding from lots of tiny cuts and abrasions, my hip is bruised and my left knee is open. I don some more clothes, find a place sheltered from the wind, eat some instant calories and decide what to do next. Although pressing on does cross my mind it seems a little too insane, especially since it has started to rain a slushy cold mix of snow and rain. So I forego the summit and head back down to continue on the Via Suvorov.

Elm village getting some love

Two hours and 900m elevation later I rest at a beautiful spot below a cross, high above lake da Pigniu. Watching a fly suck the blood seeping through my torn trousers (made from untearable G-1000, no less!) I realize how lucky I was. In the same instant I also realize that I will do it again - maybe with a little more preparation but certainly with unwavering enthusiasm. Don't know what's wrong with me, but even now I love this shit.

I've crossed into the canton Graubünden where the tiny villages speak Romansh. Now I have enough difficulty understanding Swiss German, but this sounds like I've arrived on another planet. The first village I pass should put up a sign: Congratulations, you have officially reached the end of the world. There is a bus, but only three times a day and only if you request it an hour in advance. The next village is not much better so I keep going. In the end I've hiked for 40+km, gained 2000m and lost 2400m in the last 24 hours. The train ride through the Vorderrhein valley is beautiful - I'm already scheming a kayak expedition ;-)

Beautiful trail. Imagine taking horses, cannons and 20.000 men across this!